Ever since Michael Jordan signed his first shoe deal, I’ve been fascinated by this thing called ‘transference’. What on God’s green earth does a basketball player from Wilmington North Carolina have to do with the shoes I wear? And now he’s into my underwear. Since Michael doesn’t want tags in his t-shirts, I certainly don’t.
Transference happens when we take attributes of one thing or ‘brand’ and assign it to a product, service, or another ‘brand’. We like Doritos, so our friends at Frito-Lay make “Doritos taco shells” and sell them to us at Taco Bell. People use Microsoft computers, so Ford wants us to transfer our love for our Microsoft computers to its cars. And buy them.
I’m constantly reminding my mentees how ‘transference’ works with our children’s view of God. A kid’s first idea of what God is like comes from what their father is like. So if you’re mean and don’t listen, they’ll start out thinking God is mean and doesn’t listen. If you’re the ‘soft’ dad who lives in ‘la-la’ land, they’ll start out thinking God is wispy and whatever they want Him to be.
Maybe their second idea of what God is like comes from church. If church is boring, they’ll think God is boring. If church is cold, impersonal and ritualistic, they’ll start out seeing God as cold, distant, and disconnected. If your ‘status’ in church is performance-based and they see you trying to perform for God by performing for the pastor or church leadership, they’ll launch into life thinking God’s love is only strong for the strong. For the winners. The good church people. Let them see a little hypocrisy and they’re gone. Not interested.
So, if impressions we got from ‘church’ have been subconsciously and inaccurately transferred to ‘God’, what do we do?
I say “fire your church”.
Your church is not your God. If it is, you’re in big trouble. Your God is perfect. Every church is imperfect. Your God is personal. Your church is an organization…made up of lots of people. Your God never lets you down. Your church will fall short of your expectations over and over again. Your God saves souls. Hopefully, your church is a tool in His toolkit, but it does not save. Only God does. Your God, through the Holy Spirit provides constancy in your life. Your church is there a few hours each week, no matter how good it is.
When people transfer the attributes of God to a preacher or an institution, they’re going to be disappointed. When a preacher or an institution transfer the attributes of God to themselves through the Holy Spirit, they’re going to be anointed. If you’re holding a grudge against ‘church’ because it lied to you, judged you, or failed in some way, break up the “transference”. Fire the church (or the people involved) after you’ve forgiven them. Then think clearly about the difference in the loving Heavenly Father who pursued and adopted you into His family… and the imperfect church you confused for God. Now go back into that church with a new outlook and make it better. Or find a church where God is at work and you can join Him in what He’s doing.
Question: Have you ‘transferred’ the negative attributes of an imperfect church to the persona of a perfect God? Tell us about it here.